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Document Details :
Title: 'So as not to Despise God's Grace': Re-assessing Rahner's Idea of the 'Anonymous Christian'
Author(s): CONWAY, E.
Journal: Louvain Studies
Volume: 29 Issue: 1-2 Date: Spring-Summer 2004
Rahner’s idea of the “anonymous Christian” is the best known, most controversial and most often misunderstood aspect of his theology. It is important to re-visit the idea because it is not an “optional extra” in his work but rather represents the entire dynamic of his thought. The idea of the “anonymous Christian” is located in two contexts: wider theological discourse, and Rahner’s own theology of grace. In response to criticism that the idea relativises and erodes the significance of the historical Christ event it is argued that Rahner re-locates, rather than relativises the incarnation and cross within the totality of God’s plan of salvation. Accusations that the idea of the “anonymous Christian” adversely affected the Church’s missionary activity, and that the terminology is inappropriate, are also considered. While it is accepted that the terminology is best jettisoned, it is argued that the substance of the idea is found in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, teaching Rahner himself influenced. It is argued that Rahner’s unpacking of the absolute nature of God’s salvific will serves as an important corrective both to contemporary Church documents and to theologies, which, in an effort to underscore the uniqueness and indispensable nature of the Church’s role in God’s plan of salvation, tend to underplay the presence of divine grace in other religions and in the lives of non-Christians. At the same time, Rahner’s idea is a challenge to a culture marked by indifference, a position which according to Rahner’s theology, cannot be considered salvific.